How to Become Bilingual and Why It Matters

For Gen Zers, knowing more than one language is going to be more than necessary.

In the interconnected world, you’re going to come across people of all origins. Being able to exchange ideas with them will be a useful skill.

Whether you were born in the chilly forests of Siberia, the beaches of Hawaii, or the centre of Poland, you can reach any person, anytime you want. The internet is already a big thing. It’s going to get bigger, no doubt about that.

Sure, you can rely on translating apps, yet there’s nothing like the experience of actually having a conversation. Especially such started by yourself; believe me, it’s worth it. Besides, you’re about to enter the job market soon. Generation Z will take control over businesses worldwide. Speaking a foreign language doesn’t only look good on your resume, it will be useful. Period.

English is not my native language, yet I consider myself bilingual. It’s funny when you realize that you begin to think in another tongue. While seeking jobs online (where we all are), it proved to be a necessity.

How can you become bilingual? What does it take to be a language pro?

No matter if you want to polish your Hindi, Italian, or French, here’s a few things you can do:

Watch YouTube

Interviews, meditation videos, comedy – whatever you fancy, switch it to another language. Make learning a language entertaining, instead of a drudgery. Get a sense of the language’s culture and trends.

Watch Films

We all do that – Netflix and chill or the newest blockbusters downloaded from Torrent. You can start with subtitles and try to match what you hear with what you read. Thus, you’ll grasp entire phrases used in everyday life instead of useless vocab.

Learn song lyrics

Be it in the car or while taking a shower – you sing, sometimes involuntarily. In song lyrics, you’ll often find colloquial phrases and slang expressions. They will make your speech more natural and give you an idea of the language’s culture.

Listen to podcasts

Listening to podcasts is a great habit. You can put your headphones on whatever you’re doing. Choose podcasts that interest you and listen to the same recording more than a few times. By listening, you brain is getting used to speaking the language.

Read

Should you even bother reading? If so, why read in another language? The moment I reached for a book in English – taking down every word I didn’t understand – my understanding of language went to a whole new level.

If you don’t know which books to choose, check out the books that helped me.

Have strong motivation

It’s all about the right attitude. One might liken it to the placebo effect – the stronger your motivation, the more you believe you can master a language, the more probable it is that you’ll learn it.

Talk

Speaking a language is the most difficult stage of the command of it. There is some kind of barrier in your head – maybe because it is (or seems) so hard. Even if you make mistakes, talk. Speak up your mind, try formulating your ideas, having a conversation that goes beyond the basic conversation cliche.

Give yourself time, and you’ll get there.

Think!

Language is a solely human invention. Have you ever wondered, in what language does a child think? Do they think at all, or are they just driven by crude animal instincts and need?

Words let us formulate ideas that are in our heads. It’s funny when you notice how the ideas themselves are in a foreign language

Natural method

Most (if not all) the techniques I used to become bilingual fall into the category of the natural method. Though I’ve become aware of this term only recently, it’s through the natural method that I can write in English better than in Polish now.

The natural method was best described best by Stephen Krashen in his speech on language aquisition:

As a brief summary – children start speaking a language only after a few years of listening to their parents and other people talk. Only after they acquire the language (so understand messages and can communicate in it) do they get to know grammar rules.

That might be why so many of my peers left high school without feeling confident with their second or third language, despite years of learning it at school.

Thing is, the education system ain’t perfect. It’s only perfect for creating office workers toiling extra hours in the world of godless capitalism. But that’s a topic for another time.

For now, keep learning. Becoming bilingual is in your hands – and it matters.

Published by Dawid Tysowski

[writer]

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